Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Ullmann Family

Prominent family in nineteenth-century Hungary; active as rabbis and business leaders. The Ullmann (Ulman) family originated in Fürth and was related to the Steinhardt family. Isser Yisra’el Ullmann’s four sons—Shalom (d. 1825), Avraham (d. ca. 1823), Mosheh, and Zalman—went to Hungary in the late eighteenth century. The oldest brother, known as Shalom Ḥarif because of his sharp mind, served as rabbi of Ansbach, Germany, later of Stompfa (Stampfen) between 1792 and 1799, of Somogy county from 1799 to 1802, and of Frauenkirchen (Boldogasszony), before establishing an important yeshiva in the Burgenland community of Lakenbach (Lakompak).

Shalom’s son Avraham (1791–1849) served as rabbi of Tapolcsány and Szabadka before succeeding his father as yeshiva head and founding a dynasty of rabbis in Lakenbach. Shalom’s other son, Shelomoh Zalman (d. 1862), served as rabbi of Makó at a time of turbulent religious struggles in the community. Shelomoh Zalman’s son Yisakhar (Isidor), was a wealthy merchant and lay leader of Hungarian Orthodoxy, who settled in Nagy Várad (Oradea), where he and his sons collected an important library (today housed at the Widener Library of Harvard University). Among Shelomoh Zalman’s grandchildren were the historian Henrik Marczali (1856–1940), the mathematician Gyula König (1849–1913), and the Berlin astronomer Joseph Levy.

The third brother, Mosheh, settled in Liptószentmiklós. His daughter married his relative, Akiva Steinhardt, rabbi of Alsókubin, while his son Berman served as rabbi of Zsámbék. Both belonged to a relatively moderate wing of Hungarian Orthodoxy. Berman’s son, Shalom (Friedrich), was rabbi of Vác, and was one of several outstanding rabbis who refused to enlist in the Orthodox organization after the Jewish Congress, but elected instead to join the small Status Quo camp. 

The fourth brother, Zalman, settled in Tevel, Veszprém county. Of his grandsons, the eldest, Isser (Ignatz; 1810–1849), rabbi of Zenta, was killed by Croat insurgents during the 1848–1849 Revolution. Isser’s brother Mór served as a doctor in the Hungarian army during the revolution, while a younger sibling, Benjamin, was only 17 when he joined Kossuth’s Rangers, dying in the battle of Temesvár.

Another set of brothers who were Zalman’s grandsons made their mark in the Hungarian economy. Joseph was president of the Pannonia Steam Mill for more than 20 years. Károly (1812–1880), ennobled with the predicate erényi, founded the First General Hungarian Insurance Society with Henrik Lévai, and appears in Gyula Benczúr’s famous portrait of Hungarian economic leaders. He was also the vice president of the Pesti Magyar Kereskedelmi Bank. Károly’s son Lajos (d. 1903) was chair of the Duna Steamship Society. His younger son Sándor (1850–1897), who served as parliamentary representative of the Alsó-Árpás district (1884–1892), was a noted lawyer in the capital, as well as a writer and a journalist on economic and political affairs, and a correspondent of the leading Jewish weekly Egyenlőség. He wrote A zsidó felekezeti ügyek rendezése (The Regulation of Jewish Confessional Matters; 1888). The third brother, Mayer (Mór György; b. 1817), was also ennobled in 1889 with the predicate baranyavári. He, too, headed the First General Hungarian Insurance Society and was a founder and the vice president of the Commodities Exchange. His son Adolf (1857–1925) was one of the outstanding figures in Hungary’s economy. He was a prominent economic analyst who became the chief executive of the Hungarian General Credit Bank (Magyar Általános Hitelbank) in 1895, and president–chairman succeeding Baron Zsigmond Kornfeld in 1909. He served as a member of the Upper House in 1910 and became a baron in 1918.

The most important branch of the family was established by Isser Yisra’el’s second son, Avraham. Although based in Pressburg, Avraham, a textile merchant who also sold Viennese goods, began to operate in Pest as well, attending fairs from 1792 and maintaining a warehouse and residence in the city after 1790. Avraham’s annual turnover was 30,000–40,000 florins from the Pest fairs alone. In addition, he manufactured his own textiles by supplying yarn to as many as 80 weavers. His eldest son, Moritz Mosheh (1783–1847), joined the firm and applied for tolerated status in Pest in 1802. In 1804, Avraham obtained such status over the objections of the city council and Jewish merchants who claimed that there were already sufficient numbers of textile merchants in Pest. A year later, Moritz Mosheh received this status, followed by his younger brothers, Gabriel (1792–after 1848) and Samuel (b. 1793), sometime after 1816.

Another son, Friedrich, took over his father’s firm, shifted from textiles to become a wholesaler in agricultural produce, and went bankrupt in 1839. He served in the revolutionary army, fleeing to the Ottoman Empire, where he lived until the 1860s. Samuel, too, became a produce wholesaler and served as one of the Pest community’s leaders. Gabriel, who had moved to Pest in 1809, specialized as a handicraft wholesaler. He had received his training during a four-year stay in Italy, France, and England. By 1830, he was one of the town’s highest taxpayers. He headed the Jewish Commercial Corporation for many years when Jews were still excluded from the Pest Wholesaler’s Corporation and was an energetic communal leader, initiating the establishment of a so-called choral synagogue in Pest. In 1827, he set up the Ḥesed Ne‘urim Verein, with services following the Viennese rite. Following his election to the Pest communal leadership in May 1830, he introduced a new set of statutes in 1833 that revolutionized the communal organization. Until a debilitating illness forced him to retire from communal life in 1836, he was the driving force behind the Pest reforms. A sister, Sulka, who was married to Hirsch Jaffe Schlesinger of Pressburg, was well known for her philanthropic activities. Their son, Ignatz Schlesinger, a physician, was elected head of the Pest community in 1848. He married his first cousin, the daughter of another activist in the Pest community, Leon Pollák, who was in turn married to Sulka’s sister.

The oldest brother, Moritz Mosheh, played a key economic role on the national level, earning his fortune during the Napoleonic Wars as military purveyor while also becoming involved in tobacco trade. By 1820, he had entered into partnership with the Viennese Samuel Kann, and soon diversified into salt and lumber. Although a leading figure in Jewish life, he suddenly converted, receiving baptism as Mór János; he was promptly ennobled with the predicate szitányi along with his six sons on 2 December 1825. His wife refused to convert, and the couple divorced in 1832.

While the sons all converted, the three daughters did not, at least not at the time; Maria married Lazar Auer, a wealthy grain merchant; Antonia (b. 1810) married her uncle, Gabriel (converting to Calvinism in 1852 apparently only after his death); while Franciska (d. before 1847) married Moritz, the son of Samuel Wodianer, the only Jewish merchant to rival Moritz Ullmann’s wealth. Moritz remarried almost immediately, choosing a wife from a well-known gentry family. Now he was able to buy real estate, not only a large residential housing complex and several warehouses in Pest, but also landed estates in the country. He was the main initiator and one of the largest stockholders in the Pesti Magyar Kereskedelmi Bank, established in 1841. It was the first commercial bank in Pest, aimed at extending credit to commercial interests under generally adverse conditions and attaining a measure of financial independence from Vienna. It became the most important banking institution in Hungary. Along with the Rothschilds, he participated in the great entrepreneurial projects of the day: the construction of the Chain Bridge linking Buda and Pest and the foundation of the Hungarian Central Railway Company along the left bank of the Danube. He also took part in the Hengermalom, the great steam mill, and other industrial initiatives. By 1846, he had experienced several reversals and died the following year after a brief illness.

Moritz’s six sons changed the family name to Szitányi in 1867. Bernát Szitányi was active in the Opposition Circle and during 1848 shipped arms while conducting talks with Vienna. He emigrated in the wake of the failed revolution, returning to Hungary to be elected to parliament in1861. In general, the wealth and influence of the Szitányi family greatly declined in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Suggested Reading

Vera Bácskai, A vállalkozók előfutárai: Nagykereskedők a reformkori Pesten (Budapest, 1989), pp. 141–153; Kinga Frojimovics, Géza Komoróczy, Viktória Pusztai, and Andrea Strbik, Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (Budapest, 1999), pp. 258, 322; Béla Kempelen, Magyar zsidó családok, vol. 1, pp. 94–104, vol. 3, pp. 94–95. (1937–1939; rpt., Budapest, 1999).